Some of your favourite canteen treats at Thunder Bay arenas could be no more in the near future.

Things like hot dogs, poutine and slushies have been eliminated from the menu at the Delaney arena.

It's part of a pilot called the Fuel Stop project, and the plan is to bring in more healthy food options at recreation facilities.

"The intention is if it goes well that it could be rolled out into other arenas," said Vincent Ng, public health nutritionist for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.  "As a city hockey arenas and recreation centres can be places that really model and teach kids what healthy eating is all about."

The three month pilot at the Delaney arena  goes until the end of December. It's a joint effort from the Regional Food Distribution Association, The City of Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

Delaney Arena

Thunder Bay District Health Unit wants to make 'the healthy choice the easy choice' buy not offering unhealthy option. They want to make healthy options the norm in recreation facilities. (Vincent Ng)

Up to 70 per cent of the menu will be replaced with healthy food items. Things like hot dogs are replaced with sandwiches and slushies are replaced with fresh fruit smoothies.

Fuel Stop chose to take off unhealthy options in order to make the "healthy choice the easy choice."

"Part of it was shifting the norms about having more vegetables and fruits and having more whole foods and homemade items," said Ng.

According to Ng, 60 per cent of groceries families buy are high processed foods. Arenas and recreation centres are places the health unit saw as areas that can easily implement reasonably priced, healthy options.

Northwestern Ontario has a higher prevalence of diabetes than the rest of the province with 14.5 per cent of the population 18 and older and only 12.4 per cent provincially, according to North West Local Health Integration Network.

"Diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, which is highly linked to food intake earlier in life, are higher in Thunder Bay compared to the rest of the province," said Ng. This was a contributing factor in the Fuel Stop program, according to Ng.

Sales at the Delaney arena concession have dropped by 20 per cent compared to sales this time last year. Ng said that they are unsure if the sales have been diverted to the vending machines in the arena. The Regional Food Distribution Association has been making things like soup and chili to replace the unhealthy food options and is selling these items to the canteen.

"It's a bit less money coming in, but it's an investment in our kids health moving forward," said Ng.

In the new year the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and The City will discuss their findings about the new menu.  Information has been collected through a survey by the program, available online and at the Delaney arena. Some customers have already said they would like the unhealthy options added back to the menu so they can make the choice for themselves. 

The Fuel Stop program will either be scrapped or could expand to other facilities depending on surveys results.

New menu options 

  • Whole fruit
  • Baked blueberry bannock
  • Peanut butter protein power balls
  • Hummus and carrots
  • Homemade soup
  • Hearty Chili
  • Fresh Fruit Smoothie
  • White milk
  • Chocolate milk 
  • Stainless steel water bottle (to encourage water consumption)